Tinkering with QAC guidance voted down

An attempt by two Queenstown Lakes District councillors to tighten the wording of a document guiding its airport company’s strategic direction has failed to win support.

Councillors Niamh Shaw and Niki Gladding proposed five amendments to the council’s statement of expectations (SOE) at its full meeting yesterday.

The document, which guides the Queenstown Airport Corporation’s (QAC) next statement of intent (SOI), due in June, already rules out wide-bodied jets for Queenstown or Wanaka airports, and instructs the company to account for the potential development of an international airport in Tarras by Christchurch International Airport.

The company’s next SOI must also reflect a need to operate within existing air noise boundaries, and address its role, scale and operations with an emphasis on the district’s wellbeing.

However, Crs Shaw and Gladding’s amendments sought to place more explicit restrictions and timeframes on the company’s strategic plan, including a requirement to consult the community if it wanted to expand air noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport or introduce narrow-bodied commercial jet operations at Wanaka Airport.

The others required there be no "significant new aviation infrastructure" developed at either airport while the strategic plan was being developed, and that for the term of the next SOI, general aviation at both airports "not be compromised in order to expand jet operations".

The next SOI, a document prepared annually by the company setting its strategic direction for a three-year period, will also feed into the company’s strategic plan, now under development, that will look 10 years and beyond.

During debate on the amendments, Cr Glyn Lewers said it would be "disingenuous" to approve them as they would "peddle false hope" to critics of the company, and the issues they raised would be back before councillors for discussion over the next five years anyway.

Cr Penny Clark said the council had employed the board to do a job, and it needed to be allowed to get on with it.

"If they don’t do a good job, we remove them."

Cr Quentin Smith said he could not support all the amendments, and a joint council-QAC steering group was proving to be a more robust mechanism for achieving the council’s aims.

That was despite the "difficult tension" between operating a business and meeting the needs of the community.

Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod said while the amendments had some merit, they were "last-minute, ad hoc" tinkering with the steering group’s good work.

All five amendments were voted down, and the SOE was approved.

The QAC is a council-controlled trading organisation, of which the council owns 75.01%.


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